Eric Smith, who was 13 when he killed a four-year-old boy in 1993, was paroled for the killing in February after serving 28 years for the crime.
Derrick Robie was only four when he set out alone to walk to a park recreational program near his house, according to his mother Doreen. She said she was having a rough morning with his younger baby brother and let him go alone.
When it started to rain, she went to the park to take him home and discovered that he never arrived at the program.
As a search for Robie was mounted, police discovered that purported witness Smith’s story didn’t add up.
Insanity defense rejected
They conducted a re-enactment and found that he couldn’t have noticed details like the color of Robie’s shirt and shoes from where he said he was when he saw the boy.
Searchers found the body strangled and battered with rocks, with Kool-Aid poured into his wounds. After continued questioning, Smith admitted that he killed Robie.
His lawyers mounted an insanity defense and said he had been bullied, but neither argument would fly with the jury.
Smith was tried as an adult and got nine years to life. He served time in a juvenile facility until he turned 21 and was then transferred to an adult prison.
Smith had parole hearings every two years starting in 2002. He went from showing little remorse for his actions to saying in 2010, “…if I could switch places with him and take the grave for him to live, I’d do it in second.”
In October 2021, parole was finally granted to Smith because he had developed a solid release plan and a clean discipline record.
He was released from prison in February 2022 after a few months were spent finding appropriate housing for Smith in Queens, New York.
Smith will be on parole for the rest of his life.